Fish tragedy averted after pollution scare on Wigan canal

Pumps work to save fish in the canal
Pumps work to save fish in the canal

Thousands of fish have been saved by the fast action by the Canal & River Trust after a pollution incident on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Wigan.

The origins of the pollution, which badly affected the oxygen levels of the canal at Wigan Top Lock last month, are still unclear but the irresponsible action has caused the charity to have to spend £12,000 on aerating the lock flight to protect fish and bird life.

The Environment Agency is currently investigating the source of the pollution and is awaiting the results of detailed tests, which can take up to six weeks.

The Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, is working closely with the Environment Agency’s fisheries officer to monitor oxygen levels. Immediately after the incident Trust staff organised fisheries experts to install specialist pumps and aerating equipment at the lock to improve the water quality for shoals of gasping, distressed fish.

Fresh water has now been flushed through the Wigan Lock Flight and oxygen levels are returning to normal.

Paul Breslin, fisheries officer with the Canal & River Trust, said: “If anyone has any information that might lead us to identify the cause of this potentially damaging pollution incident, we would like to hear from them. Thanks to the fast action of the person who reported the incident to the Environment Agency and our quick-thinking emergency staff, we managed to avoid a major disaster for local wildlife.

“It is a pity that thoughtless actions have resulted in our charity having to spend much-needed cash in this way but protecting our waterway wildlife is one of our top priorities. Canals which provide the best habitats for wildlife are also great places for humans to relax and enjoy the big outdoors too.

“We know from research that people feel happier and healthier by water, so our aim is to continue to protect these special blue spaces for the benefit of everyone.”

Wigan and District Anglers Association is also relieved not to see Wigan’s canal fish stocks seriously affected. It has more than 1,000 members who enjoy angling along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Club secretary Kenny Baxter said: “On behalf of the Association and its members, the committee would like to thank the Canal & River Trust for its prompt response in providing first class support and resources, that helped avert a major incident on a very popular length of our canal.

"The canal hosts a vibrant match scene, probably the most popular in the country and once again, with the continued support of the Trust, our match anglers are back using the affected stretch of water. Well done the Canal & River Trust.”

For more information about volunteering or donating to the Canal & River Trust, please visit the websitewww.canalrivertust.org.uk